A DUP politician is renting a new constituency office from a community group with strong UDA links.
South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford moved into the premises on Sandy Row, which are now owned by Belfast South Community Resources (BSCR), two weeks ago.
DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster attended the opening as did North Belfast MP and party deputy leader Nigel Dodds.
Mr Stalford spoke glowingly of his new base, saying: “I am proud that I recently opened my constituency office in Sandy Row.
“It is situated in a building that is part of the Social Investment Fund project. I revealed that in the Executive Office committee not so long ago, and it is not a mystery to anyone.”
Yesterday, Mr Stalford said he had nothing to add to his comments at the official opening of his office.
But what Mr Stalford made no mention of in his remarks is that BSCR is managed by convicted loyalist multiple killer Garnet Busby, and that ex-UDA prisoner Trevor Greer is among its staff.
The UDA’s south Belfast leader Jackie McDonald is a former development officer with the group, and the terror gang continues to use offices on the top floor of the building to hold ‘kangaroo courts’.
BSCR bought the premises at 127-145 Sandy Row from Ulster Unionist politician Chris McGimpsey earlier this year.
The purchase was funded by a £757,000 grant from the controversial Social Investment Fund (SIF) which has been branded a “paramilitary slush fund” by some politicians.
Busby sat on the South Belfast SIF Steering Group that recommended the huge six-figure payout to his own BSCR group.
Referring specifically to BSCR Mr Stalford added: “I am proud of community groups such as BSCR which are committed to peaceful and democratic means, and which are determined to drive positive change.”
But the fact that public money is being used to pay rent to landlord BSCR, which has strong UDA ties, is causing concern.
A political source told us: “It’s bad enough that the £757,000 of SIF public money has been used by BSCR to buy the Sandy Row building. Now even more public money is going into BSCR’s pockets by renting an office there for an MLA.
“The UDA, which is a proscribed terrorist organisation, still use the premises and until that changes the DUP should steer clear.”
Last year Sandy Row woman Paula Dickson-Graham told of how she was summoned to 127-145 Sandy Row, known locally as the ‘McMichael Centre’, to meet UDA thugs. She told how a member of the terror gang falsely accused her ladies’ soccer star daughter Billie Simpson of assault.
Paula was ordered to go to the complex again the following day, and it was at this meeting she was told Billie was barred from entering Sandy Row.
She revealed: “The person told me ‘Paula, he (UDA commander) has changed his mind, Billie’s not welcome on Sandy Row because she had disrespected the UDA’.”
Loyalist sources say anyone who falls foul of the UDA is told to attend the BSCR-owned building to learn of their punishment.
Meanwhile, BSCR boss Busby has been busy setting up a new property development firm registered to BSCR’s offices on Sandy Row.
According to Companies House documents Boyne Enterprises Ltd will develop building projects, and let or operate either owned or leased real estate.
Busby is listed as one of four directors of the community interest company.
There is no suggestion that any of the other directors have paramilitary links. Sources say the setting-up of Boyne Enterprises Ltd is directly linked to BSCR purchasing 127-145 Sandy Row.